LETTERING RESOURCES DINKY DIPIf you have been following along with my lettering adventures here and trying it out for yourself I want to recommend you invest in what is called a dinky dip. They come in many incarnations, most of them are four small vials housed in a natural pine block.  There’s pros and cons with that one, the big pro is if you knock one over (which you invariably will) you spill only the most minute amount of ink on your work surface. The cons for me are that I have been using an oblique holder (and sometimes nib) and I find it difficult to navigate the nib dipping within such a small space. Perhaps there’s a trick to it, but I don’t know it yet. The other con is I hate the way the natural unfinished wood gets so messy. I ended up spray painting mine with black chalkboard paint so it didn’t look like such a mess.  The one I purchased above has a much wider dipping area and you don’t need to fill it to the top, so if you knock it over again the mess is less. I also like that the block is finished which means if I get ink on it I just wipe it off after each session and it looks brand new (yes, I am a neat freak).


This is an oblique nib holder, this version is a very inexpensive plastic option, I wanted to try the oblique holder out and didn’t want to invest in one that was more expensive if I wasn’t going to enjoy using it. I have since found that I do indeed like using this type of holder a lot. The oblique holder assists me with keeping on a nice slant which I have found very helpful. I have since invested in a more comfortable version, but it is pretty ugly so I didn’t photograph it, but you can take a peek at what I own here.


This is an oblique nib, which to me is one my most favorite lettering discoveries thus far, you can use it with a straight holder.  This nib is made by Mitchell and is firm, for beginner’s it seems a firmer nib is much easier to manipulate (at least that has been my experience). You can get beautiful hair line strokes with this nib. The nib holder with the cork is so nice to have when you are doing long practice sessions or writing out multiple envelopes (which I have not tried to do yet).  I promise to get up some specimen samples created with this nib so you can get a better idea, but I think this is a lot of information to process for today, no?

P.S. for those of you lucky enough to be in NYC, Paperfinger is doing a workshop-Love Letters & Valentines that I wish I could attend! It’s a beginning modern calligraphy workshop in a very intimate setting. I don’t know if there are still spaces but here is the link.

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She recently re-located to the country with her handsome husband and two pups.


  1. Thank Tristan for the information on new products and modern calligraphy. I love that there are people who are keeping the art of handwriting a live! I have started up calligrapher after a long absence, and have invested in some begginers books. I was lucky to find one at the library with a DVD. Right now I have been practicing on the love notes for my husband. My book mention the elbow nib and I might purchase one, but right now I am learning to use the oblique pen holder.

    1. Yea, Lois! I love that you are picking it up! I really love the elbow nib + the oblique holder. It’s so nice to watch letters being formed (with the DVD) and I can’t wait to see some of your samples one day! Keep it up:)

  2. Tristan, I’m a new reader and have loved exploring your lettering posts! I’ve had calligraphy on my long-term future hobby list forever, and this dip looks so helpful, especially for this clumsy, left-handed beginner. Thanks so much for the inspiration =)

    1. Hi Stephanie! Did you know most of the successful modern calligraphers right now are left-handed? I promise to write a post soon specific to left-handers. Bryn of Paperfinger who is hosting the workshop I linked to above is one of those successful left-handed letterer’s!
      And you will knock over your ink (everyone does) but at least it won’t be too bad. I know that some people take masking tape and tape their dinky dips to the table, but I haven’t tried that yet:)

      P.S. Melissa Esplin has a GREAT on line course if you want to get started!

  3. How cool. I wish I had the time for fun lettering that is such a cool reminder of days gone by. I might have to pack up my sewing machine and put it in storage someday so I can work on something new! LOL!

    1. Jill, no, never put your sewing machine away! I so wish I could have a place to have my sewing machine, it’s been in the closet for ever. The great thing about lettering practice is you can do it on your kitchen table, it’s very inexpensive to get into, the oblique holder in the photo above was $1.80! I think the most expensive item is the paper, some of the pads I buy are up to $10 for 50 sheets and I can go through a lot of sheets in a practice session. I have read though that some calligraphers use Kodak print paper sheets (the stacks you get at Staples) and that’s not that expensive at all. I think everyone should try this so that lettering doesn’t die out! Maybe it’s something you and your girls can learn together:)

  4. Love all of this useful information. I didn’t realize there was such thing as dinky dips. I actually purchased a ten pack of little plastic canisters from the dollar store. It’s almost like I need one of those tooth paste holder thingys the dentist has on their finger when you get your teeth cleaned. Do you know what I’m talking about? HA!

    1. Courtnie, they do exist and they are SUPER helpful. Before I had them I was just making a mess with the shot glasses, which is another option and those can be picked up at the dollar store. I like that I can just add a lid to the ink after each session. I find it’s easier to clean glass than plastic, but most dinky dips are in plastic. It’s just a trial and error, but I think I know what you are talking about from the dentist and I actually think it would work, lol think outside the box)!

  5. Hey Tristan! I’m not finding the dinky dip you have pictured anywhere, did you buy it off another site? It looks perfect… I want it! :) Any advice on where to get one? Thanks for everything you write about! :) You’re an immense help to a dabbler!

  6. Hi Tristan! Just discovered your blog …so glad I did. :) I am a newbie and really interested in learning this art. I would like to try out the ‘comfy cork nib holder’. Would really appreciate it if you could provide the name and link to the store. Also any suggestions as book or links to sourcing the alphabets of modern calligraphy. Cheers and Thank you!

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